"Again the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field." Matthew 13:44
"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it." Matthew 13:45-46
Like most people, come year end I begin to look to the next year and reflect on the past one. I love the work God has been doing in my life, though many times His lessons have been bitter pills to swallow. Rarely has there been a year in my adult life that I've looked back and said, "What a wonderful year I have had." I suppose that is partly due to my analytical mind, which always wants to 'fix the problem.' Such a mind tends to seek out problems in order to satisfy its compulsive desire to make things right.
However, this time I look back and give a solemn nod to the events of the year. I'm glad for what I've been through, what cutting away God has done of cancerous mindsets, sins, and what-not. I haven't yet "arrived," but I can see God's merciful and gracious hand at work to mold me into the person He would have me be for His glory and honor--and that is why I live.
I confess, I go into the new year recognizing a flaw in me I often point out is the problem with others: the desire for comfort and rest from all hardships. Aye, most people would not consider that a flaw. Nonetheless, I look to what weakens our society and those close to me, including myself, and I see the lust for recreation, entertainment, and comfort. I say lust because there is nothing wrong with enjoying life. But when it becomes a lust, it replaces what is good about 'enjoyment' with addictions, substituting what should be consuming our lives with what should not.
What does all this have to do with the kingdom of heaven? Like John Leland, the man finding the treasure in the field or the merchant man finding the pearl of great price, the burning desire for the kingdom of heaven has a two fold effect. First, all else in one's life seems of little value. Second, only one thing seems worth living for: the kingdom of heaven.
The coming of the kingdom of heaven was preached by John the Baptist, Jesus, and the disciples. It is not an earthly kingdom. When Christ died on the cross, was buried, and rose again, the entrance to this kingdom was opened to all who believe. One becomes a citizen of it by being born again. One is born again through faith in the death of Jesus Christ as payment for one's sins, in His burial, and in His resurrection. This faith changes one's life. Many claim this faith, but their lives haven't changed. If you measure the lack of change in their lives against what Jesus tells us the kingdom of heaven is like, then you will likely conclude they have not bought the field or the pearl.
Reflecting upon the 'selling' of ALL in order to obtain the kingdom of heaven, I asked myself, "What have I not yet sold?" I am already a citizen of the kingdom of heaven, but am I fulfilling the whole duty of a citizen? Can a stranger, when he encounters me, tell that I am a citizen of this great kingdom? If I am still carrying the baggage of this worldly kingdom then I cannot fully reflect the heavenly kingdom. Thus, I am resolute to know the mind of God and live a life worthy of His kingdom.
Reflecting upon the 'buying', I asked myself if there was anything hindering me from being fully committed (like when one purchases a valuable item is fully committed to ownership) to this kingdom of heaven. Like the patriots of our country during the War of Independence, am I willing to suffer great loss in order to help others, including my children and future grandchildren, to gain the freedom found in the kingdom of heaven?
Weariness tends to pull one's attention away from the plow and to the shade under the tree or the spring of fresh water. Sometimes we mistake entertainment or recreation for the only shade tree or the only source of fresh water. Yet the true source is found in Christ: in the studying of God's Word, the worship of our Lord Almighty, and the fellowship of the saints (meaning fellow believers).
I am weary right now, and yet in my heart beats a desire to not seek refreshment from movies or sports or the variety of entertainment the world provides. I know that when I am weary these things can often leave me feeling empty and even fill me with more anxiety. They are only momentary diversions, not true sources of help.
Looking to the new year, my resolutions may seem to some a bit backward. I look to endure hardships and to teach my children how to endure them. Not that I plan to seek out trouble, but that I be willing and ready to 'sell' those comforts or pleasures that draw me away from God. Most of all, I plan to get back to the basics of life: hard work.
My father was a hard worker. His notion of a relaxing Sunday afternoon was hoeing the trees or checking the cows or riding the fence line. I loved going with him. Such peace could be found riding beside him or sitting in the truck, and even in putting my hoe in the dirt.
What a change this resolution is this year from last year. Last year, I thought I needed to spend more time relaxing and enjoying life so I planned to spend more time playing games or seeking what others considered good fun. I found out I sought the enjoyment of life in the wrong places. I forgot the great pleasure work could bring. This year I want to 'sell' it all and 'buy' the field. Doing so will bring greater joy than any entertainment, any comfort, any pleasure the world can bring. I want to work that field for Christ, because in it is the greatest treasure of all, the kingdom of heaven.
What are your New Year's resolutions?